Eftekasat considers its Egyptian roots and world influence

Menna Taher, Wednesday 11 May 2011

The Egyptian band, Eftekasat speaks with Ahram Online on it’s amalgamation of Latin, Arabic, Greek and Balkan tunes before their performances on 12 and 19 May

Picture by Claudia Wiens

“Egypt has witnessed many different cultures throughout history and that’s what we’re trying to capture in our music,” said Amro Salah the keyboardist and composer of Eftekasat, a band which was established in 2001.

The band’s first performance in February 2002 at the Cairo Jazz Club received an immense positive reaction from the audience, which only encouraged the band members to continue.

Hany El Badry, the band’s nay (oriental flute) player admitted that the idea of the band was just an experiment at first: they just didn’t know what it would amount to, however, as professional musicians they took it seriously.

“Including the nay with jazz music was a great risk,” said El Badry, who had left the band for a long period and just re-joined, “mixing western with eastern instruments was common, but the use of the nay was not done before.”

The band has started out with four members; Amro Salah (keyboard), Hany El Badry (nay), Samer George (bass) and Amr Khairy (drums), with other musicians introduced later, such as Hany Bedeir (percussion), Ousso (guitar) and Mohamed Medhat (violin). Currently, Ahmed Hisham, who is also plays in Nagham Masry, Sahara and The Percussion Show, is the band’s drummer.

“Throughout the past ten years the band’s voice has changed,” said Salah “the more we perform on stage, the more experience we get,” he elaborated that, with time, the band has established their trademark and found a clearer direction in music.

The band mixes Arabic, Greek, Balkan, Latin and western tunes to produce what is today called “world music.”

“We are not the only band that does that in the Egyptian scene,” said Salah “There is Amr Salama and El Door El Awal, among some others.”

Yet, Salah said he can’t enumerate more than ten bands that adopt this style.

“The music scene is very limited in Egypt. People don’t take it seriously,” he said comparing Egypt’s and European cultural agendas.

“In Europe the cultural agenda is filled with events,” Salah continued “from theatre, to music to different shows, and people show up in big numbers, while we always have to hope that our concerts will draw a large number of people in Egypt.”

George explained that the band mixes a lot of scales and different rhythmic patterns, which might not be appealing to ears that are not used to these diverse genres and sounds.

They seemed to do well on international channels: “We were featured many times on Nile FM,” he continued “they always aired our songs during a show hosted by 7-Up, so fans for a long time called us the 7-Up band.”

However, when their song appeared on Nogoom FM, the Arabic counterpart of Nile FM, they were not received as well.  According to George, the listeners of Nogoom FM are used to the star system, where they listen to well-known singers, without regard to the music supporting the singer.

The band, mainly instrumental, has added vocals in some of its performances, yet does not always include a vocalist in their line-up.

In their Sufi Jazz tour, a Sufi singer accompanied them, while in their tour in Jordan they were joined by Ruba Saqr. Hany Adel, the vocalist for Wust El Balad, a well-known band in Egypt’s music scene, made his mark on two songs in their second album, Dandasha.

El Badry comments on having a full-time singer that while “music can get through to people, it is not as powerful as words.”

However, the band has managed to transmit a certain mood or idea through the melody with the title briefly explaining what it’s about.

While composing Moulid Sidi El Latini (also the title of their first album) for instance, Salah imagined how a moulid (traditional Egyptian festivities) would sound if they took place in Latin America.

“I had this fictional place in my head,” he explained. The melody of the song is very descriptive of that image as it begins with a Latin tune, and then emulates the sounds of the moulid.

Not including vocals also gives the opportunity for each member to shine. “We don’t want to have someone be the face of the band,” explained Salah “and we compose the music in such a manner that each instrument has a unique role.”

Eftekasat has toured worldwide, in the Arab world, Europe, as well as the US.

George and Salah both feel that the best tour was in the US. “We were received very well by the audience there,” said Salah “It was a long tour and included many concerts.”

Salah also recounted that while performing in Bulgaria the audience asked for an encore for four songs, which rarely happens.

One of the reasons behind their great reception is their identity. “People in the West don’t believe Egyptians have good musicians, so when we perform we’re immediately looked upon with surprise.”

Salah explained that some festivals hold press conferences for them, especially due to their Egyptian origin. “Because Egyptians are rare in festivals worldwide we always get attention when we apply for festivals.”

The band is now working on its third album, yet its framework is unclear as it is still in its early stages of creation.

12 May, 8pm
El Sawy Culture Wheel, Wisdom Hall

19 May, 7pm
El Genaina Theatre, Azhar Park


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